Polar bear standing over pumpkin.

After making sense of all the candy you’ve just inherited, one of the first post-Halloween chores is deciding how to get rid of the pumpkins.

Real pumpkins are a great natural alternative to artificial décor, but how do you dispose of them properly after the last trick or treater has left?

Consider compost, post-Halloween 

Perhaps the most common form of eco-friendly disposal is to compost this delightful orange fruit (yes, of the Cucurbitaceae variety). If you don’t have a composter or are simply looking for another unique eco-minded alternative, consider donating them to animal habitats across the country, instead.

Lions, Tigers and Pumpkins, Oh My! 

Zoos, farms, animal rescue centers and other places that house animals can use your discarded pumpkins as pumpkin donation to create nutritional and enriching treats for their animals. The pumpkins and seeds inside are used as food. The discarded shells can often be used as play toys for larger animals, before they consume the pumpkin.

The Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Indiana holds a pumpkin donation Pumpkin Party on the first Saturday after Halloween. The Center encourages visitors to bring in their hollowed out, used pumpkins the day before the event.

Polar bear with pumpkin at zoo

On the Pumpkin Party day, the big cats receive pumpkins stuffed with meat. Part of the fun is to see how the tigers, lions and other animals will react to their tasty toys. Watching the animals throwing, smashing, and batting the pumpkins around is just part of the fun of donating the pumpkins for a second use at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center.

The Oakland Zoo in Oakland, California receives truckloads of pumpkin donations from local pumpkin patches. The leftover pumpkins are used in a variety of ways unique to the needs of each animal. For instance, holes are carved into the pumpkins and food is inserted inside to create enriching toys for meerkats, geese, bats and lions. Even larger animals, such as camels and elephants, can enjoy the relatively small treats, too.

The Denver Zoo and St. Louis Zoo also accept pumpkin donations, as do many other zoos large and small.

Looking to donate your old pumpkins? Call around first and ask if if your local zoo or rescue shelter accept pumpkin donations.

Feature images courtesy of Valerie

By Kimberly Button

Kimberly Button is the author of The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home and the Editor-in-Chief of GetGreenBeWell , featuring modern, sane ideas for living a non-toxic life. A professional journalist for nearly two decades, Button has written for magazines such as Martha Stewart's Whole Living, American Airlines, AAA, Sierra, National Geographic Traveler, and Vegetarian Times. Visit KimButton.com for more information.